A forest where Robin Hood and his Merry Men robbed from the rich is under threat from two giant wind turbines.
Barnsdale Forest, in Labour Leader Ed Miliband’s Doncaster constituency, dates back centuries and featured in Russell Crowe’s 2010 blockbuster Robin Hood.
Although the woods are mentioned in folklore as one of Robin’s secret camps they have never been listed as protected ancient woodland.
Now Origin Energy wants to fell a corner of the Forest to make way for two 400ft wind turbines which would tower above the remaining trees.
History enthusiast Ron Firth, of the nearby village of Campsall, hopes that his research into the Robin Hood connection will save the day.
According to legend, Robin Hood married Maid Marion in Campsall’s 11th-century parish church.
The outlaw was also said to have tied the Bishop of Hereford to a tree in Barnsdale Forest and robbed him of his goods.
The area around the forest was very wealthy at the time because William the Conqueror gave a lot of land around Pontefract to nobles as a reward for helping to conquer England.
Robin would also have found rich pickings a quarter of a mile from the woods where the main road North ran along the present route of the A1 to Pontefract Castle.
Ron believes he has found the first real proof of the forest being one of the Merry Men’s old stomping grounds in his research into Tudor writings.
In 1550, John Leland, an antiquarian who travelled the country picking up stories about the way people lived, wrote: “I saw the wodd and famose Forrest of Barnsdale, where they say that Robyn Hudde liveyd like an outlaw.”
Ron said: “We are desperately trying to cling on to what is good in the area particularly.
“Two turbines are going to produce very little electricity and we are only eight miles from Ferrybridge power station and only 12 miles from Drax so it is a hell of a price to pay to destroy the environment for the sake of two penn’orth of electricity which is available only if the wind blows at the right speed.
“We have had various public meetings and the villagers for miles around have voted 78 per cent against the wind turbines.
“What gets my goat is Doncaster Council only recently put on an exhibition promoting Robin Hood in the area but we are worried the planners will give consent to the turbines because our MP is Ed Miliband who is such a big fan of green energy targets, cheaper electricity, and wind farms.
“Our only hope is if we can get the Forest put in the ancient woodland category it will make it far more difficult to put the turbines up.”
Boss of York-based developers Origin Energy Steve Carney said: “We commissioned a history study of the woods and Robin Hood’s name does crop up from time to time.
“The Russell Crowe movie was set around there so historically it may have been Robin’s old stomping ground but the trees we want to take down are not linked to anything that might have existed in the distant past, certainly not in Robin Hood’s time.
“We have also negotiated a way of local people buying the energy at a low fixed cost which we think is very much in the spirit of Robin Hood.”
Nikki Williams, Woodland Trust campaigns boss, said: “Clearly, the woods in the Barnsdale Forest area have strong cultural links to myth and legend, including stories about Robin Hood.
“We also have reason to believe that Barnsdale Wood and White Leys Plantation, both of which are threatened by the application, are ancient.
“Ancient woodland is a rare, nationally important, irreplaceable habitat covering just two per cent of the UK and Government planning policy states that it should be protected.
“We have therefore advised Doncaster Council that no decision should be made before further information has been sought from the applicant regarding the antiquity of these woods and advice has been received from Natural England.
“There are currently more than 300 ancient woods threatened in the UK and so far, more than 50,000 people have joined our call for Government to strengthen legislation to safeguard them in the face of ever increasing development threats.”
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